Man, there’s one conversation I am dismayed to hear lately, and it’s the one about how the old Flying Saucer on East 4th Street was so much better than the new one on East Third. I think that’s crazy, but everyone is entitled to his or her own iron-clad opinion. Instead of moaning about how the Flying Saucer just isn’t the same, why not hit up the old location’s new business? The brewhouse and eatery now occupying the old Saucer space is good enough to make you forget there ever was a Flying Saucer to begin with.
Located in the historic Land Title Building, The Bird Café is the newest colony in Shannon Wynne’s gastropub empire (The Flying Saucer, Rodeo Goat, formerly 8.0). Mentally overlaying the new café with the floor plan of the old Saucer, you’ll find that the Bird’s dining area occupies the area where the indoor downstairs lounge and tap wall used to be. Where the biergarten used to be are the kitchen, a bar, and a covered patio with vinyl seating and corners painted muted in chartreuse.
Why someone chose the name “Bird Café,” I don’t know, but it’s certainly carried out in the décor, from Audubon-ish bird portraits by the bar to kitschy ceramic herons atop the bar shelves and a bunch of birdseed scattered beneath the acrylic surface of the bartop. The seeds are painted silver, though, so you don’t feel like you’re getting an Old Fashioned during a PetSmart mishap. In all, it’s tasteful but just bordering on an Etsy parody.
The shelves behind the bar are probably the most impressive things in the room. Seeming to be nearly two stories tall, they’re full of a serious selection of bourbons, scotches, whiskies, and wine. Recessed below is a wall of 15 taps, backed by Wynne’s signature wall of quarters. The draft selection is all crafts, including nine from Texas. There’s a Community rotator and Peticolas Velvet Hammer, or, if you feel like a beer milkshake with a painkiller in it, there’s Lakewood Temptress on nitro (pressurized with a partial nitrogen gas blend to increase creaminess).
You can get those beers at places like Rodeo Goat or the new Flying Saucer, though. I opted for the Bird’s cocktail menu. As it happened, I was en route to see a thrash band called Toxic Holocaust in Dallas that night, so I was immediately captivated by a drink called Blood and Brimstone. It featured Waco-distilled Smoky Balcones Brimstone whiskey as the primary liquor, which in my mind was almost an afterthought, since the cocktail already sounds like it could be the name of a Testament song. Later though, I looked up what’s remarkable about Brimstone, and its claim to potential fame is that the whiskey is smoked with Texas scrub oak rather than traditional Scottish peat. I guess I’d have to try Brimstone on its own, but I did notice in my Blood and Brimstone a smoky flavor up front that seemed to melt into the sweetness of the other components: cherry brandy, Benedictine herbal liqueur, and orange juice.
The Bird Café’s bar manager carefully selects the ingredients, and, as evidenced by the hand-labeled dropper bottles above the bartenders’ wells, he makes his own tinctures as well. Quality is a big deal at the Bird, so be prepared to wait a few minutes for your $13 drink. If that doesn’t sound worth it, then there’s this place on West Freeway where domestic drafts are huge and cheap and you can get boneless wings in three levels of heat until 2 a.m. It rhymes with Crapplebee’s. If, however, you’re willing to wait (and on a busy night, you probably will), you’ll be rewarded for your patience with a really great drink served by a staffer who is friendly yet serious about his or her craft. You might miss the old Saucer, but do yourself a favor and alight at The Bird Café soon. — Steve Steward
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